Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America, Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado Boulder
Michele Koons, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
This presentation will explore the politics and power of the Moche archaeological culture of the North Coast of Peru through an examination of their irrigation systems. Moche’s distinct archaeological signatures (exquisitely decorated ceramics, monumental architecture, polychrome murals, metalwork, etc.) have long been seen as the first evidence for a South American state. However, current scholars have begun to pull apart these assumptions and view Moche as a more complex mosaic of interacting settlements across a landscape. In addition to other archaeological evidence that I will present here, an examination of the organization of the irrigation systems in each valley helps to understand the complexities of the political situation.
The North Coast of Peru is a dry desert bisected by a series of rivers carrying water from the high Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Elaborate irrigation systems pull water off the rivers and distribute it throughout each valley. Some archaeological sites are more than 30 km from the uptake, requiring sophisticated engineering and management to ensure the water’s delivery.
Here I discuss how the distribution of different ceramic styles and information from colonial era Spanish documents may help to understand the construction sequence, management, and maintenance of Moche irrigation systems and how this relates to the political dynamics of the Moche through time.